PENALTY PLAGUE ENDS AT LAST
England won a World Cup penalty shootout for the first time ever, as they saw off an ill-disciplined Colombia side in Moscow. The Three Lions’ age-old record as the world’s worst team at spot-kicks ended in style; they’re quarter-finalists.
Colombia’s desperate waiting on talisman James Rodríguez was eventually to no avail. The Bayern Munich man played no part in this one, so the South American’s had to reshuffle the pack. Premier League faces, past and current, lined up for them – Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado, David Ospina and Dávinson Sánchez. Gareth Southgate named the same eleven that beat Tunisia for this one. Dele Alli was back in for this crucial Round of 16 tie.
Just like we have become used to with this England, Gareth Southgate’s men were quickest out of the blocks. England came close on fifteen minutes, as Jesse Lingard put Kieran Trippier through in a promising crossing position. His mean ball flew across the face of goal, only for Harry Kane on the stretch to steer a difficult header onto the roof of the net. The first half was to be a largely cagey affair, that had England asking most of the questions. Colombia’s defenders were answering them, for now.
Raheem Sterling had a shot blocked as The Three Lions pushed for the lead. England then earned a freekick in a dangerous area, which Kieran Trippier had set his sights on. As the set-piece was being prepared though, Colombia midfielder Wílmar Barrios seemed to headbutt Jordan Henderson. The referee referred the incident to VAR, who deemed the altercation worthy only of a yellow card. England were incensed, and with reason too. Juan Quintero and Jesse Lingard volleyed wide and over for their respective sides as the half livened up a little. But it didn’t liven up too much, because at the break it was goalless.
With fifty-three minutes gone, an obvious rugby tackle on Harry Kane was made by Carlos Sánchez, already sent off in this World Cup. The referee had no other option, awarding Gareth Southgate’s men a penalty with no hesitation. Captain Harry Kane stepped up to slam the ball down the middle, with height, and into the net. David Ospina never really had a chance against the tournament’s leading goalscorer. 12 goals in 8 games as England captain isn’t bad at all. England 1-0 Colombia wasn’t bad either.
The match still had half-an-hour to play, but it became bitty, feisty and stretched. Dele Alli headed over from a wonderful opportunity as England attempted to double their lead. Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier came on to see the game out, as Sterling and Alli made way. Stoppage-time read five minutes. It was to be a highly eventful five minutes, too. As the ball sat up nicely in midfield, substitute Mateus Uribe crashed a volley in, from more than thirty yards out. Jordan Pickford made an incredible save to tip the snap-shot round the post. Split-second reactions from England’s Number 1. Colombia earned their first corner of the match. England know all about their threat from these. But they didn’t look as though they did, as Barcelona centre-back Yerry Mina climbed highest to power a ninety-third minute header past Jordan Pickford, and in. His sixth international goal in fifteen games tells you all you need to know. The six-foot-five man had delivered on the real threat that he posed. It was 1-1, a cruel, cruel blow for England. The ninety minutes were up. Familiar territory for England, extra-time.
Colombia had been reinvigorated after their stoppage-time recovery. Radamel Falcao came so close to putting them ahead as he nodded wide from a Johan Mojica cross. But England saw out a torrid first fifteen minutes of extra-time without conceding. Coming through these difficult spells unscathed is a priceless asset to possess at this level. Kyle Walker lost the ability to walk as his leg seized up through cramp. So, Marcus Rashford came on in his place, as Eric Dier dropped to the back-three.
But Gareth Southgate’s one-minute words seemed to do the job, as The Three Lions came out firing in the second period. Jamie Vardy volleyed into the gloves of Ospina and an unmarked Eric Dier headed over from Trippier’s corner as England finally regained the momentum lost by Mina’s last-gasp equaliser. Danny Rose skidded a low shot agonisingly wide of Ospina’s post as Southgate’s players remained in the ascendency late on, but they wouldn’t get their goal. It went to penalties yet again for England in knockout football.
With Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford having scored for England, Jordan Henderson stepped up to try and level things at 3-3. Both teams had been faultless so far. The Liverpool captain struck his penalty well, but Ospina made an excellent save as he batted away a firm-but-failed penalty. It looked like it would be a familiar ending for England… However, Mateus Uribe wacked the ball against the underside of the crossbar and out for Colombia. Jordan Pickford celebrated, as he knew a Trippier goal now would tie things up as level once more. Sure enough, Tottenham’s flying full-back whipped the ball high into the left-corner. A perfect penalty to equalise for 3-3.
AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca stepped up to put more pressure on England, but what happened next shifted the power in this penalty shootout. Jordan Pickford halted mid-dive to block Bacca’s powerful penalty with a strong left hand. For the first time in living memory, England needed to score, not to avoid defeat in a penalty shootout, but to win one. Into the fray stepped Eric Dier. The gangly midfielder had somewhat of an awkward look about him as he prepared his run up, but he was phased not one bit. The former Sporting Lisbon man ran up and fired England into the quarter-finals with a low penalty that will live long in the memory of England’s players, staff and fans.
The Three Lions, young and inexperienced lions, have busted the myth that England can’t take penalties by sharing responsibilities, sticking to their tasks and beating adversity with clear passion for their country. Jordan Pickford and Harry Kane were the heroes for England. They saw off Colombia 4-3 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw, to reach the quarter-finals of the most unpredictable World Cup in history.